CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former President Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention may also have started setting the stage for another White House bid by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In a wide-ranging address to formally nominate President Barack Obama, his wife’s rival for the party’s nomination four years ago, for a second term, Clinton portrayed the president as a sensible pragmatist who had put aside any political grudges for the good of the U.S.
“He appointed Cabinet members who supported Hillary in the primaries. Heck, he even appointed Hillary!” Clinton said to a standing ovation.
He added, “I’m so proud of her and grateful to our entire national security team.”
The former president didn’t mention his wife again, but the subtext was clear: The Clintons remain a force in the Democratic Party.
Obama’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in a battle for the Democratic nomination in 2008 left considerable bitterness on both sides. Clinton’s endorsement Wednesday night represented the final reconciliation between the Democratic heavyweights. As the top U.S. diplomat, the former first lady cannot participate in politics. She was on a mission to Asia on Wednesday. At a news conference in East Timor, she said she had read parts of her husband’s speech.
“It is a great honour for him to be nominating the president,” she said. “This is the first convention I’ve missed in many, many years.”
She has indicated that she won’t return to the job after four years of high-stakes diplomacy that so far has involved travel to 110 countries.
Bill Clinton used a 50-minute speech both to reaffirm his support for Obama and to remind voters of the robust economy he presided over during two terms in the White House, with Hillary Clinton prominently by his side. Clinton said the most important question facing the nation is whether it wants to return Obama to the White House or replace him with Republican Mitt Romney.
“If you want a ’you’re-on-your-own, winner-take-all’ society, you should support the Republican ticket,” Clinton said. “If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we’re-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
Earlier, Clinton told NBC News he was not trying to promote another presidential campaign for his wife, who will be 69 in 2016.
“We’re not kids anymore. I don’t have any idea if she’ll ever run again. She says she won’t,” the former president said.
Hillary Clinton’s popularity has soared since her bruising campaign against Obama, and she would begin the 2016 nomination contest as a heavy favourite if she were to pursue it.
If her secretary of state position opens, some possible candidates include Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry’s speech to the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night is an audition of sorts for the job. Kerry, the party’s presidential nominee in 2004, moved on from his loss to George W. Bush to serve as an unofficial negotiator with Afghanistan and Pakistan and shepherd a new arms control treaty with Russia to Senate ratification over conservative opposition in December 2010.
In the coming weeks, Kerry will play Romney in practice sessions with Obama for the three presidential debates in October.